(*You know how that joke goes, right?)
Some of you might remember that last September I was putting some of my Jim Marshall photograph collection in an auction of American memorabilia taking place in New York City. It turned out to be quite an adventure; things did not go exactly as I had planned. So sit right back and you'll hear a tale—
Let me start off by clearly and honestly stating that everyone advised me against participating in this. By everyone, I mean Paula, my housemate; Laurie, my best friend and sometimes photography partner; my agent; and the executor for Jim's estate. I do listen—I just do not always take the advice of others. I decided that gambling a modest portion of my holdings (only a little more than a third) was a worthwhile gamble. I might lose or I might win. While my advisors thought it was the wrong choice, they did agree that I understood what I was getting into, and I wasn't risking the whole pot. We all knew it might not turn out well.
None of us imagined how badly it would turn out.
The auction house, Guernseys, picked 15 photographs, six dye transfer and nine Ultrachrome prints, which went to auction on September 24th. It was not a rousing success.
That was understatement. The auction bombed.
People simply weren't in a buying mood. Three of the Ultrachromes sold early, and at such appallingly low prices that I decided I was very happy that more hadn't sold. (Those didn't have reserves on them; most of the pieces I put up for auction didn't have reserves, because there are downsides and expenses associated with reserves.) Nothing sold well in that auction; a good 80% of the items put up either got no bids at all or didn't hit their very modest reserves. Maybe one piece got anything close to the estimated street value (the Black Bird—sorry, Mike!), and I was familiar enough with enough items in the auction to know that the estimated street values that were posted by Guernseys were normally realistic ones. I am absolutely, positively sure it wasn't usual performance for a Guernseys auction; they could not survive in the business making a profit and handling the kind of properties they do from auctions like this. It was just bad luck for all involved.
Well, that was the gamble I had taken.
Then things went really, really bad...